Worldwide icon-chevron-right Europe icon-chevron-right United Kingdom icon-chevron-right England icon-chevron-right London icon-chevron-right Harry Shearer interview: '"The Simpsons" was my money gig'

Heads up! We’re working hard to be accurate – but these are unusual times, so please always check before heading out.

Harry Shearer
© Charlie Ward

Harry Shearer interview: '"The Simpsons" was my money gig'

The American actor of 'This is Spinal Tap' and 'The Simpsons' fame tells us about taking on a more serious role... as a ballroom dancer

By Daisy Bowie-Sell
Advertising
American comedian and actor Harry Shearer is best known for his contributions to ‘The Simpsons’ – he’s voiced more than 30 characters since it started in 1989, including Ned Flanders, Waylon Smithers and Mr Burns. He’s also a longtime collaborator with cult filmmaker Christopher Guest, their most famous work being the mockumentary ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ in which he starred as bassist Derek Smalls in a spoof British ’80s heavy metal group. A London resident for part of the year, he’s now making his British theatre debut, starring opposite Maureen Lipman as one half of a ballroom dancing couple in Oliver Cotton’s ‘Daytona’ at north London’s swish new Park Theatre.

Have you had to learn ballroom dancing for ‘Daytona’?

‘Yes. I warned them I’m not a dancer, but in fairness I did once learn the moonwalk for an HBO special so I can be taught. I’m like a clever chimp.’

Is ‘Daytona’ anything like ‘Strictly’?
‘I don’t watch those kind of competitive TV shows, but I don’t think so. I play Joe, who is rehearsing with his wife Elli, played by Maureen Lipman, for a ballroom dancing competition. My character’s younger brother [played by John Bowe], who we haven’t seen for 30 years turns up. He’s got what he thinks is a satisfying surprise for us.’

You’ve been in plays in America, but they’ve been comedies. Is this funny?

‘There are laughs in “Daytona”, but it’s not a comedy. I never thought: I must one day do “Hamlet” so the plays I’ve worked on have been fairly light. This seemed like such a great opportunity, but I know I’ll be nervous as a wet cat to begin with.’ Do you think British audiences will be different?
‘I’m sure they will be. Technically, though, I have been on the UK stage before, if you count performing with “Spinal Tap”. Why not count that? We’re acting!’

After a slow start ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ became very successful. Did it surprise you?
‘It must have been the first non-porn movie to become big in home video. We always thought it would reach an audience but we had no idea it would be a trans-generational audience.’

We heard you were initially reluctant to be in ‘The Simpsons’...
‘I didn’t jump at it right away. I knew the king of animation voices – Mel Blanc who did “Looney Tunes” – and from what I had learned about animation, I thought it might be an industrial process. But “The Simpsons” wasn’t: we’d do the shows pretty much straight through and we worked together as a cast.’

Has the money you earned from ‘The Simpsons’ meant you can work on smaller projects like this?
‘Yes, “The Simpsons” was my money gig and everything else I can now do because I want to.’

Which is your favourite character to work on?
‘That’s easy: Mr Burns. Most nasty people, at least in fiction, have to put some effort into appearing less than totally evil. But he just doesn’t bother with that.’
Recommended

    You may also like

      Advertising